10/20/2002 11:00PM

Top sire Saint Ballado euthanized at 13

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Saint Ballado, one of the most popular and promising young sires in Kentucky, was euthanized early Sunday morning after suffering complications from spinal surgery. A son of Halo, he was 13 years old.

Saint Ballado underwent surgery on Oct. 15 to correct progressive cervical myelopathy, a condition that had caused pressure on his spinal cord resulting in some lack of coordination. Surgeons performed the procedure at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington. The surgery was similar to that performed on Seattle Slew and involved insertion of a Bagby basket, a device placed in the vertebral column to help relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

Saint Ballado recovered well after the surgery and shipped by van back to Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, Ky., on Saturday.

According to Mark Taylor, whose family owns Taylor Made, the stallion became fractious while loading on the van but showed no signs of physical difficulty. But about two hours after his arrival at the farm, he showed signs of distress and became frantic. Taylor Made veterinarians sedated the horse and administered a painkiller. But after approximately two hours, Saint Ballado again showed signs of distress. Throughout the night, the horse's condition deteriorated. The farm's veterinary team and the horse's owners, Taylor Made Farm and Aaron and Marie Jones, opted to euthanize him. Saint Ballado died at Taylor Made at about 4 a.m. Sunday.

"Saint Ballado was a great horse, and no one wanted to see him suffer needlessly," Taylor Made Stallions president Ben Taylor said in a farm statement. "We are grateful for the meticulous care afforded the horse by our dedicated staff of team members and the veterinarians involved. Saint Ballado represented a lot to Taylor Made. He will be missed."

Saint Ballado hailed from one of Thoroughbred breeding's exceptional families. Bred in Canada by Windfields Farm, he was by Halo and out of the Herbager mare Ballade, who also produced Saint Ballado's full siblings and champions Devil's Bag and Glorious Song.

Despite Saint Ballado's regal bloodlines, trainer Clint Goodrich purchased him on behalf of Tartan Farms for a mere $90,000 at the 1990 Keeneland September yearling sale - a bargain price that Goodrich felt was largely because of the horse's May foaling date and consequent immature looks.

When Tartan reduced its bloodstock in 1991, Goodrich pooled $150,000 with partners Bob Lothenbach and Steve Herold and purchased Saint Ballado privately. The colt went on to win the Grade 2 Arlington Classic and Grade 3 Sheridan Stakes in 1992, and earned $302,820 from a career record of 9-4-2-0.

Saint Ballado retired to Ocala Stud Farms in Florida with an initial fee of $2,500. From his first crop, he sired Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Captain Bodgit, who narrowly lost the 1997 Kentucky Derby when Silver Charm beat him by a head. That early success prompted Taylor Made and their major clients, Aaron and Marie Jones, to buy Saint Ballado for about $6 million.

Saint Ballado sired such Grade 1 winners as Captain Bodgit, Yankee Victor, and Sister Act. His other graded stakes winners include Straight Man, Flame Thrower, and Freedom's Daughter. His stud fee was $125,000 in 2002 but was reduced to $75,000 in 2003 after drops in the yearling market.

Saint Ballado's progeny had often proved profitable for commercial breeders: His lifetime yearling sale average is $211,820, and his top sellers include the 2001 Keeneland September auction's $4 million sale-topper, Warhol, and $2.6 million yearling Word of Mouth, among a handful of other millionaires.

"Saint Ballado put our stallion operation on the map," Mark Taylor said Sunday morning. "We're totally devastated by his death. He was our big horse, and he did a lot for us and our customers financially. But he was also just a neat horse to be around."

Saint Ballado will be buried near the Taylor Made stallion complex after undergoing a necropsy to shed light on the exact cause of death.